The last shot – end of a season.

by Patrick Sandeman

The Last Shot – end of a season.

This week-end saw the end of the shooting season, for me at least, and what a season it has been. Please don’t get me wrong, I am not out there biffing pheasants every week-end like many of my successful banking and lawyer friends. I just do not have the funds (being a wine merchant), nor the inclination, or indeed the stamina.

When I say stamina, I am not necessarily referring to the long Friday night drive to all four corners of the country, but to the sheer amount of food and wine consumed over a shooting week-end.

Take this last week-end for example. The Friday night drive down to the wild depths of Dorset is enough to give anybody a thirst, and the first glass of Daniel Barraud’s Macon Vergisson barely touches the sides. Inevitably one or two guest arrive late and so by the time you sit down to dinner you are not only ravenous, but already half cut. Our host then generously produced a double magnum of Einaudi’s 2004 Barolo Costa Grimaldi, which he reminded me I had even more generously presented him a couple of years back. It was quite delicious (as is the 1997 of which we still have a few larger formats), and was much enjoyed by all, so much so that even a double magnum did not see us through dinner, and we moved on to the Emmaunel Reynaud’s far too easy to drink, but quite punchy, old vines Cotes du Rhone. Inevitably we all got to bed later than intended, with more wine on board that planned, and Saturday morning is a little bit more hazy than necessary, so a fully cooked breakfast is the order of the day before setting off for the shoot.

The Dorset countryside around Beaminster is sublime and has some of the best shooting in the country, but I could at first do the birds little justice, and the shoot captain was correct is his assessment that I was ‘crap’. I looked forward to the mid morning break when I could take on board some ‘shoot juice’ which would improve my swing. Hot soup, sandwiches and the inevitable sloe gin served after the second drive, just as you are barely digesting breakfast, but best of all a bottle of Valdespino’s Don Gonzalo  Old Oloroso which I have taken to every shoot this season. It goes down a storm, and certainly improves my shooting.

After two more glorious drives it is back to the farm for a large lunch of slow roast lamb with all the trimmings, cheese and fruit cake, washed down by a Chapoutier Cotes de Rousillon and a very frisky Kopke ruby port. Two more drives and it is back to the farm once more, this time for tea, more cake and chocolate brownies.

After the shoot, there is a quiet lull of a few hours before the evening’s dinner party when more guests are invited over. Does one go for a walk, have a sleep, or doze in front of the telly? Whichever option you take, you will still never be quite ready for the next onslaught of food and wine, but the first glass of champagne can be quite reviving, and a few bottles of cellar aged Ruinart got everybody into the party spirit. My host and his wife apparently failed to communicate over the menu, and it was only having decanted a number of bottles of Gruaud Larose 1998 (really lovely with a couple of hours in the decanter), that he discovered we were having poached salmon for dinner. No matter, however, as he had also opened a number of bottles of Laurent Pillot’s 2004 Chassagne Montrachet Grandes Ruchottes which was showing beautifully and much enjoyed.

When it comes to port, I am always delighted that Ladies should be involved (I have never understood why the men should want to deprive themselves of their company for the sake of a glass of port and ribald conversation) and was even more delighted when on producing a magnum of Sandeman 1963, one of the greatest wines that my late Father ever made, all the ladies decided that they did, after all, want a glass of port. It was a triumphant conclusion to the dinner, and the end of my shooting season. If only I could have shot as well as I had eaten and drunk!

Next week-end we are driving nowhere and will revert to a normal life of frugal eating and drinking. At least that is how I feel this morning, but with a full week ahead, who knows which bottles will appear from the depths of the cellar on Friday night?